Nearly half the team comprised of middle school athletes
by Nick Clark
Sun POST Newspapers
The Anoka-Hennepin School District will conduct a board meeting Sept. 23 that could shift a long-standing policy on yielding opportunities to middle school student athletes when it comes to participating in varsity sports.
Or, as the Champlin Park girls swimming and diving team is concerned, whether or not nearly half of the girls out for the sport this fall will be allowed to compete at the highest level.
In retrospect, should the policy be changed, it would be a year late for the Rebels.
Champlin Park was winless in dual meets a year ago, which is something the team’s deep and talented eighth-grade (now ninth-grade) class could have likely altered.
“It would have taken us from no wins to a .500 season,” said head coach Joe Thiel. “The impact would have been that great.”
Should the Sept. 23 ruling go in favor of a change, the same could transpire for Champlin Park this fall.
The Rebels are home to a pair of dynamic seniors in captains Elise Magalis and Laura Katchmark.
Magalis was a Class AA state meet qualifier last fall in both the 200 and 500-yard freestyles. Katchmark just missed in the 100 freestyle.
“Both look really good so far,” said Thiel. “Elise is off to a really good start, and Laura is just a lightning bolt. We could see both in the state meet this year.”
Thiel threw ninth-grader Gina Grander into that conversation as well, saying the versatile freshmen will have state qualifying times in numerous events by seasons end.
“We will just have to figure out what events to use her in,” Thiel said.
Those decisions will also possibly be affected by the ruling the school board takes.
In fact, much of the shape the lineup takes could hinge on what transpires.
Of the 57 girls listed on the roster posted by the Minnesota State High School League, 24 were either seventh or eighth graders. Seventeen of those girls were seventh-graders, which more than the 14 total juniors and seniors on the team.
Thiel said two of his eighth-graders would be locks to earn their way onto the varsity, before adding that plenty of others from those middle school classes would be right on the cusp.
“We are just a super young team,” said Thiel. “I guess you could call us up and coming. We can be competitive.”
That wasn’t always the case last year, but Champlin Park has already pushed that aside with a middle of the pack showing in the Northwest Suburban Conference relays, a victory over Cambridge-Isanti and close defeats to Coon Rapids and Andover.
This week, the Rebels visit Robbinsdale Armstrong for a dual meet Thursday, Sept. 12, before heading over to Northdale Middle School Saturday, Sept. 14 for the Blaine Invitational.
“We will be right in these meets,” said Thiel. “We are so young that they are, for the most part, oblivious to what happened last year. They don’t really understand what happened, that we didn’t win. They are still a developing team, but they are developing in the right direction.”
Contact Nick Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org